What brings you back to Africa?

Old Sep 12th, 2008, 09:53 AM
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back2sabi

you are stating exactly our feelings!
when we get back to africa it's kind of feeling getting home!
we also think we belong to that continent.......and we also think it's because we priginally came from africa!

each time we travel it's always the same emotion: as soon as we step out of the plane at any landing srtip it's a depp breath and then we realise "we are back". the smell is unique - and i don't think of rotten meat ;-)

div
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Old Sep 12th, 2008, 02:14 PM
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I've heard many comments similar to Back2Sabi's "going home" remark and have wondered if that is part of my own attraction.

With lipstick in the news, why not here too? I have one photo of a pride of lions dining on a wildlebeest and there is one lioness with blood on her lips. When I've shown that in a presentation to kids my comment is always, "That's not lipstick."

Turning it around, the bush is a place where no one expects human females to be wearing lipstick. But a heavy coating of SPF 30 or higher lip balm is a good idea.

When you start your actual planning, you may want to launch another thread, Bon Vivant. Your name would be a good one for a lipstick.

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Old Sep 13th, 2008, 04:47 AM
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I also love the direct experience of wildlife in Africa, and have for a decade now. However, with a bit of reflection, the profound “life-changing” dimension of it soon started feeling false and then, for me at least, troubling. How can a deep affinity for a place entirely ignore its people? Look back over the posts to this topic so far and I think you’ll see what I mean: no references to Africans or African cultures. None.

As sincere and loving as the motivations that people have expressed for "going back to Africa" are (which I firmly believe), eventually I came to recognise that any feelings I had of “being one with nature” or “connecting with your primordial soul” were based on contrived fictions (safaris and game parks) maintained by Africans (with much help from international corporations in many cases) largely in order to provide income from rich foreigners to help sustain local people (and support the corporate bottom line). Yes, there’s a conservation motivation as well, but having seen these organisations from the inside, if the parks didn’t pay, they wouldn’t exist for very long.

The safari myth that has been packaged and sold to us started with the sensationalised 'great white hunter' stories spun by early 20th century newspapers as the rich and aristocratic Americans and Europeans began to live out their own hunting and conquest fantasies, with reporters and biographers in tow (see “The Myth of Wild Africa” by Adams and McShane). Cue Ernest Hemingway. Hollywood got involved a bit later. CC Africa, A&K and all the others are just trading on that myth, and they’re damn good at it – we eat it up and come back for more! However, eventually we need to own up to the fact that when we go on safari, we are choosing to indulge in a commoditised fantasy.

What does it mean if that’s what’s stirring your soul? I wasn’t comfortable with the answer.

Do I have something against safaris? Against wildlife? Certainly not. I love them. Indulgence, guilty pleasures and fantasy are an important part of travel and holiday time. But I did come to see that it’s dangerous to confuse holiday escapism for reality, particularly within Africa where the stakes are much higher. I don't really think it’s as big a deal if Americans think all Italians float around in gondolas and sing opera, or Europeans think a Manhattan or dude ranch lifestyle are classic Americana. But I’ve come to understand that when the fantasy about Africa is disconnected from Africans entirely, then the people become part of a passive landscape, further objectified and disempowered. In my work and day-to-day life in South Africa I see the negative effect that has on people in their ordinary lives and on the development of their countries (which is why I’m such a strong supporter of responsible travel and afrikatourism).

I also find it uncomfortable to indulge in the fantasy when I know that most Africans can’t afford the entry fees to their own parks, nor do they have the time or money for holidays. The most common experience Africans have of their own continent is rural or peri-urban poverty leavened by deep connections to the land and long-standing traditions that have not yet been dissolved by urbanisation and consumerism. The experience we have as non-African leisure tourists to Africa is as alien to Africans as the world of billionaires with servants, private jets and private islands is to middle-class Americans and Europeans. (I imagine billionaires don’t feel discomfort for being so rich – maybe that’s an affliction peculiar to middle-class Westerners?)

So while I love living in and travelling around Africa, I consciously try not to deceive myself about the safari and wildlife experiences I’m fortunate to enjoy from time to time. As Goethe said, ‘the hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes.’ We choose not to see the poverty at Buhoma village before going to see the mountain gorillas in Bwindi. We choose not to look at the overcrowded homesteads of the residents of Bushbuckridge whose ancestors were pushed out of Kruger Park a century ago.

I’ve also realised that, for me, it is the remarkable people whose cities and parks I visit, their hospitality and traditions, that make travel in Africa so wonderful. Yes, there are grumpy old men and reactionary jerks, annoying bureaucrats and slackers – let’s not replace the myth of wild Africa with the myth of the noble savage. Having said that, the magic of Africa that I’ve seen is the eclecticism, spontaneity, creativity, perseverance, warmth and sheer humanity of Africans, from Morocco to Madagascar. Anyone who has encountered Swahili culture will immediately understand what I mean, and it has held true for me from the Berbers in the Atlas Mountains to the Malagasy on the Masoala Peninsula. If you feel touched by the sun and smells and landscapes of Africa, these are the people fortunate enough to grow up and grow old, living here every day of their lives, and it seems to me that there is often something special in their nature because of it, or at least it is special to me.

Alaska is wilder than Africa, Yellowstone just as dramatic and resplendent with game, India just as replete with myth and exotic large animals. Why is Africa so special?

Africans.

HTH

Kurt
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Old Sep 13th, 2008, 06:33 AM
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Kurt, when you say this string has "no references to Africans or African cultures. None.", I think you're inaccurate. Look at my earlier response, for example. True, it's not paragraphs long, waxing eloquent about the wonderful African people, but I did mention them. (And I do find them to be wonderfully warm and hospitable.)

I think people always romanticize their travels to some degree. The desire for adventure and romance (in the broadest sense of that word) is one of the reasons people travel, after all, and I don't think it's fair to find fault with tourists for enjoying the thing or things that are tourist "draws" for a place. One could say that the traveler to France who visits Paris and the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame but doesn't go to any small French towns without tourist attractions has somehow been sold an unreal romanticized view of France. So what? And the Eiffel Tower IS a part of France, just as much as any factory or day care center in any French town.

And the same is true of African wildlife parks. Kruger is just as much a part of South Africa as is Benoni or Polokwane or the miles and miles of rural farmland.

Yes, few South Africans can afford Mala Mala (and for that matter neither can I, an American) and not many can afford the Kruger rest camps. The average American can't afford the top 5-star hotels in New York or Los Angeles either, but I don't think tourists who can afford them should feel bad about staying there.
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Old Sep 13th, 2008, 07:45 AM
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Kurt,

You end with the same question that is the title of this post. Even for those of us who love Africa and live there as you do, we apparently can't quite put the answer into words.

You're right about other places having a unique beauty and appeal as well. We are fortunate to be able to visit, enjoy, compare, and contrast the wild places of the world.

Your opinions on the "commoditised fantasy" offer a sobering contast to some of the other comments. It's a good slap upside the head to read diverse ideas.

You mention "stirring your soul" and that you are not comfortable with what may be doing the stirring. I say, "to each soul, his/her own stir stick." On my last trip a civet plug, among other things stirred my soul.

You are also right that the people and culture are a big part of the life changing experience, the adventure, the
"commoditised fantasy" or whatever you want to call it.

Reading every word of these posts is hard to do so you missed my comments and additional link on the cultural aspect, which I've copied here.

Most of us can sit and watch African wildlife all day, but the culture and people play a big role as well. Check out this link that asks for the most memorable moment without animals.
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35153638

When we visit far away places, we generally miss the more mundane, common every day living of the local inhabitants. So when any of you come to visit the Great State of Wisconsin in the USA for its festivals, lakes, museums, and parks, feel free to stop by my place and watch me take out the trash, clean the toilet, and scrub the kitchen floor for a well rounded experience. I'll even let you help.




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Old Sep 13th, 2008, 08:15 AM
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kurt i have to agree that people make a difference - in all destinations! i also agree to sustainable tourism - everywhere!
i don't agree to your assumption that tourists lack the feeling of (african and other dest.) daily live or culture which comes with it!

there is a mixture of everything when we travel. appreciate landscape, animals and people.
you cannot single one out - at least we cannot.

of course there are other places in the world with outstanding people. e.g. the fijians are considered the most friendly folks in the world.

so every destination has got a "label" for which it is loved and visited.

one simply cannot dive deep into a country's citizen's life despite we might love to do so.

i strongly support celia's and lynn's posts!

for us personally we cannot single out landscape, people, wildlife etc.
africa is just a "package" which includes all of it. the same as other destinations. not superior at all. but for some of us it's a kind of dejâ vu. and that's it what makes it so special.

div
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Old Sep 14th, 2008, 01:37 PM
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Wow! What a great discussion. Thanks once again for your input.
I suppose that there is a dichotomy facing most travellers, Kurt-- wanting to see and experience different parts of the world but lamenting what tourism does to some of those places. The advice is often given that we should go to such-and-such a place "before it is discovered by the tourists" and, by implication, spoiled. What I wrestle with is confusion as to whether or not the people who live in these places are better off economically by having had their locality "discovered", or whether they would have been better off if left alone. I know that economic advancement is not the only yardstick by which success can be measured, but I think that it is a very important one. We were saddened on a visit to a hill-tribe village in Thailand many years ago when, on catching sight of us (a group of three tourists), children dashed away from a roadside school lesson and burst into a round or two of "Frere Jacque". It was well-rehearsed but out of place and (seemingly)joyless for the children. I do suppose, however, that the few dollars that we gave them for their unsolicited performance may have made some difference for those children.

In my round-about and garrulous way, I am coming back to your comment about getting to meet and get to know the local people in their daily lives, Kurt. We would have loved to have had that opportunity in Thailand but, instead, we were served something completely the opposite. What chance does a visitor to Africa for 2-3 weeks or less (even if there for a second or subsequent time) have to gain the up-close-and-personal experience that Lynne has so kindly offered? My wife and I would love to visit local schools and talk to the children and teachers (as we were fortunate to be able to do in China some years ago - by a very peculiar combination of circumstances and only because the Chinese teacher whom we first met wanted to have his students practise their English with us), but how could we possibly arrange that unless by chance once again?

I think that I have been lured away a bit from my original question, but I find this quite interesting..
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Old Sep 14th, 2008, 05:01 PM
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Very interesting comments … we all struggle to find the right words to express what we feel whether it is about the people we love or hate, countries we enjoy or don't or the best books and movies we have read and seen.
I returned to Kenya because it is the country of my childhood so I had rose coloured glasses. But I was also raised for several years in Uganda and have no such emotional attachment even though I would like to return … unlike Kenya where I just had to return.
As a child I remember the danger of living in an African country. Living through military coups in Uganda, curfews, guns going off at night and panga wielding gangs in the suburbs in Nairobi. Wild animals in the garden.
Children love danger and excitement and these days if you live in a Nanny State like Australia I think the children are the poorer for it.
Visit most African countries and you can feel that frisson of danger and adventure even in the most well planned trips. It would be naive to think that all African people are friendly and welcoming (or out to rob you) just as it would be to see all Australians as beer swilling loud mouthed louts. You visit a country and try to have an open mind and learn about the people you meet. We have had surprising conversations about politics, religion, racism, poverty with both uneducated (in a western sense) villagers and tertiary educated Kenyans. We have also felt threatened because personal space means different things to different people.
There is a sense of danger when you travel to any country in Africa. It can be just from perceptions from the media and family or from real events that happen to you, animal or people related which make you feel that you are living on the edge. It makes you feel ALIVE like nothing else.
I would never go to the Kibera slums as it is way above my comfort zone for danger but I know people who leave Australia and stay there with people they have met on previous trips. I would walk in the bush with a Maasai as I trust their knowledge of the animals but I would hate to meet a lion on that walk. Assuming I survived I would live on the story for the rest of my life and would be keen to go back and relive the terror.
Bit like going on some of those terrifying rides at Disney world. Or bungey jumping. I haven't heard a reasonable comment from anyone who thought that was a good idea except that it made them feel alive.

So to finish, it might be the animals, the scenery, the people, the smells, the diversity of cultures, the history, the subconscious feeling that it is the birth place of mankind or a combination of all those things but I think that it is the feeling that you are truly alive when visiting an African country and it is simply too hard to go back to a normal life after that.
Just another view.

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Old Sep 15th, 2008, 08:05 AM
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For me it's the diversity and the extremes around every corner.
Extreme desert, people, wildlife, wet lands, foods, culture, etc. etc.

You can ask all you want and you will not know what exactly what to expect. I love the surprise of it all.

You potentially can look at 100 pictures of the Eiffel Tower and mostly know what it looks like.

You can, as an example, look at someone's pictures of the terrain in the Okav. Delta Botswana and I will guarantee that they will differ from what you'll see.

As an example, there are so many corners that one can see as well as the differences in seasons, rain, migration, etc. there's a constant change.

Africans differ from person to person, tribe to tribe, region to region, etc. but you will generally find a prevailing warmth that you may not always find elsewhere.

I generally don't like to ever go back to the same place but know that you could start at one end of Africa and never hit or see the same things again.
If however, you did go back to the same place it would be different because of the extremes mentioned above.
Hope that makes sense.
Africa's unpredictable to a degree and ever changing. I like that.
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Old Sep 15th, 2008, 08:35 AM
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bon
regarding school visits etc.
you should be able to get in touch with your local church and they can connect you to priests who serve in your home country.

e.g. where i live we have priests from tanzania, ghana, ivory coast, india who all support projects within their home countries.

here you might start as well:

www.calabashtrust.co.za

div
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Old Sep 15th, 2008, 12:10 PM
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Africa is great. I'm in my early 50s and first took a solo trip there when I was around 25. I'm female and travel around the world alone. I first went to Tunisia and then the next year on a solo trip to Morocco. It was great!

In 2003/2004 and 2004/2005, I finally made it into the heart of Africa when I flew from L.A.-Europe-Nigeria-Ghana. It was a long flight, but the trip was worth every second...although I took VERY ill and was quite flat on my back for nearly 2 weeks. But, the Ghanaians, at my hotel, took care of me as if I were family and didn't expect anything in return.

The reason, for the illness was that when I changed planes in Frankfurt, I heard that there had been a bad flu epidemic in Germany...this was mid December. A lot of very sick and coughing people boarded the plane. If this had happened in S.E.Asia, where I spend most of my overseas time, they would not have been allowed on the plane due to SARS. But, they were allowed to board in Frankfurt.

A man sitting one row over and two behind me coughted almost non-stop all the way from Frankfurt to Nigeria. Thank goodness he got off the plane in Nigeria. But, it was too late. I had already been exposed, but didn't know it yet. The plane then flew on to Ghana.

When I woke up the next morning in Ghana, I was sweating, shaking, and coughing...very unlike me as my friends joke and call my immune system iron clad. I hadn't had any type of sickness for over a decade. But, I think that due to having a system full of all of the shots I had to take plus being on anti Malaria medication (Malarone), it all just did my immune system in.

But, I was determined, even sick, to get some things done while there.

The things I saw were so culturally interesting. Ghana is incredibly culturally interesting and that's what I went for to be really connected to the people. I'm really not into the animal/safari experience so much.

I hired a private driver who was someone that the woman who ran the hotel restaurant had known since she was a child. She sent someone to his village as he had no phone and asked him to drive over to the hotel to meet me. He was an elderly man. I had him the second year,too, but didn't recognize him, the second year as he had made so much from his private driving business in a year that he'd gotten new clothes, shoes, hair grooming etc...and even now owned a cell phone!

So, I wrote down where I wanted to go and he drove me there. So, it was me organizing my own private tour for 2 weeks. I didn't have him every day though.

I've been on every continent in the world as I first left out on my solo trips when I was 17....almost 18. There have been a lot of very beautiful places and things that I've seen and experienced, but only two brought tears to my eyes...and I'm not a teary type...one was the sight of the Duomo in Florence, Italy and the other exiting the plane and walking down the stairs,on a night flight, that had just landed in Ghana. The airport was all lit up in the background.

As I stood in the runway shuttle, the tears poured. I was now in the heart of Africa and the land of kente cloth. Smiles. It was great.

Growing up, many times when there was a special occasion at church, Kente cloth would be draped over the choir members' choir robes. So, I grew up with connections to Ghana in that way.

Plus, while at university, I had taken a couple of Dance of Ghana elective classes where the Ghanaian professors...two brothers...not only taught dance, but also culture, music, and drumming. This was back in the mid 70s.

So, it was just trying to get there, as back in the day it was very expensive to fly to Africa and especially from L.A.

So, when I first went to Africa...Tunisia and Morocco, I went from France and just bought cheap, individual trips, through Nouvelles Frontieres in France...charter flight and hotel selection and then I was on my own. It was very cheap back then to do it like that from France...$300-$350 for an entire week, in a decent to very good hotel, including airfare and two meals a day.

My time in Ghana was magical and so full of culture and history...visiting the slave castles north of Accra...which my driver drove me too and watching people along the roads buy smoked grasscutter (jungle rat) from the smokers along side the road...to watching women walk along the road with their babies wrapped to them in vivid-colored African cloth. It reminded me of the days when our family would drive from California across Arizona and New Mexico and we'd see Native American women walking along the long stretches of roads with their babies. It was a great experience.

I really hope that you will be able to experience Ghana. I've written a lot on this forum that you can pull up and read. Plus, I helped a Canadian family plan their trip and Sandye, the poster, even wrote a travel story with photos of their family's experience. You can pull that up,too as she posted how to get to her story.

The Bradt guide is the best for Ghana, by far, so flip through a copy. And one great thing about Ghana is that you never feel as if you're part of some institutionalized tourist trap. It has a great infrastructure, but is not tourist-group touristy...lots of independent folks like me traveling around. Happy Travels!


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Old Sep 16th, 2008, 09:35 AM
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The excellent travel story that Sandye wrote is under the thread, "Back from our family trip to Ghana" on this forum, but the story was posted on travelpod.com. She talks of it under her fodors thread. Happy Travels!
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Old Sep 16th, 2008, 09:37 AM
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I forgot to add...she goes by the name of "hooktraveller" over on travelpod. I just pulled it up and her story is still there. Happy Travels!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2008, 05:16 PM
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What brings me back? Usually, an airplane. Heh.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2008, 07:46 PM
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I have just returned from my 3rd trip in 3 years (and all 3 time I return to Kenya!!! I won't travel to countries that allwo hunting or paoching to go lightly punished) and have found myself answering this questions a lot. (all my friends go africa? aain? they just can't understand my love affair.)
for me it is everything that can possibly titillate my senses and heat felt sense. It is its vastness and variety, the extremes of life, the colors, topography, people, cultures, wildlife, the seasons, itsunpredictability, the smiles and eagerness of her children, the rawness of life and death ans survival, the art and crafts, etc.
Need I say more? Can you get why I am like a Wildebeaset returning year upon year?
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 12:17 PM
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ele
we are great supporters of several conservations and also love kenya for their anti-hunting law!
let's keep our fingers crossed that the hunting havy weights in kenya don't influence the government towards hunting. there are some camp owners who are professional big game hunters; now they are forced to hunt in tanzania or southern africa and they have been trying to get hunting allowed in kenya for the last almost 40 years since hunting was banned!


regarding poaching and what you say "lightly punished" offenders:
we do make a distinction between "poaching" for feeding a family (as some tribes have been doing since the beginning of time) and poaching for trophies in order to sell them to asia.

we have learned to NOT argue with hunters! we consider this waste of time!

we also don't argue with people who love to go on safari but not caring about the animals means just putting a blind eye towards the hunting problematic.

the worse country in view to hunting is namibia! there even cheetah hunting is allowed without any monitoring, licencing or restrictions. any cheetah can be hunted down which is on private land. and 90% of nam surface is in private land or national reserves.
here we see also the problem to figure out which "game farm" is solely for tourism and which one does mix tourism with hunting. many "garm farms" in nam have a large area for animals to roam free but a very small area where the animals get relocated to in order to be killed.

we very much appreciate to learn that there are more and more people around which also oppose to hunting , even if that put limitation in view to destinations

div
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 01:48 PM
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Isak Dinisen (Karen Blixen) said it well, "this is where I belong."

I return again and again, now mostly east to Kenya and Tanzania. But north to Egypt and south to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana had the same pull. And, one of these days I'll make it to Morocco and Namibia, and any number of any other countries on this amazing continent.

The people, cultures, animals, history, cities, landscapes all say to me "welcome home" ... and for sure "it's never dull!"

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Old Sep 27th, 2008, 06:00 AM
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I went to Tanzania/Zanzibar from Sept 1-14th..08', my 1st time in Africa. I was so taken by it all I actually was planning trip #2 while taking trip #1. The folks on this Forum were a big help to me and it's worthwhile to keep checking in to see what is said here. I had lots of questions, "what if's" but someone here always had an answer. I was 63 yrs. old when I took my 1st adventure and hopefully next time I'll get to see Kenya. Actually started scanning the Internet for tour companies, did comparison checks and found something that suited me. Hope you have the same luck. I've just posted some pics from my trip under Ve's Photos..Tanzania/Zanzibar 08' if you want to have a look...Good luck and hope it all comes true for you.
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Old Sep 28th, 2008, 11:52 AM
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Mortification! On reading through the many and varied responses to my original post, I went back and looked at how my question was originally framed. For the first time I have seen the misspelling of "vineyard" in that post. Mea culpa!
If anyone feels that this has invalidated any comments made, please feel free to post any necessary amendments.
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Old Sep 28th, 2008, 01:55 PM
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Off with your head... a misspelled word!
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